Attorneys for two families of drowning victims from the July 19 duck boat disaster on Table Rock Lake called it “an absolute disgrace” that problems with the vessels were pointed out years ago and that the industry did nothing to make them safer.
The families of Ervin Coleman and Maxwell Ly on Sunday filed a lawsuit in federal court in Missouri accusing Ripley Entertainment, Ride the Ducks of Branson and Herschend Family Entertainment of negligence and wrongful death for taking 29 passengers on the lake amid a strong storm that its operator knew about ahead of time.
What’s more, the lawsuit claims that Ride the Ducks and its various owners have known about safety problems with the World War II-era vessels that travel on land and water and, rather than make improvements, have rebuffed suggestions from a federal agency that would have made them safer.
“It is an absolute disgrace that those fatal designs were, in a very public way, pointed out over 16 years ago,” said Andrew Duffy, a Philadelphia attorney representing the estates of Coleman and grandnephew Maxwell, said at a press conference on Monday. “And the duck boat industry did nothing. And that is outrageous.”
The lawsuit seeks $100 million in damages from the companies that own Ride the Ducks and manufacture the boats. Coleman and his grand-nephew Maxwell were among nine members of the same Indianapolis family who died on the ride, which killed 17. The attorney said, however, he is not representing Tia Coleman, who was the first survivor to speak publicly about details of the incident. Tia Coleman was married to Ervin Coleman’s nephew, Glenn, who also died on the ride.
“We remain deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred in Branson and we are supportive of the affected families,” said Suzanne Smegala-Potts, a spokeswoman for Ripley Entertainment, which bought Ride the Ducks in Branson last year. “The investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board is still underway. No conclusions have been reached, and we cannot comment at this time.”
In response to a request for comment from The Star, Herschend Family Entertainment pointed out that Ripley Entertainment bought the Ride the Ducks operation in Branson in December 2017.
“Beyond that, we cannot comment on pending litigation,” the statement said.
A Ride the Ducks boat with 31 people on board started a tour during the evening of July 19 and got caught in a severe storm that caused the boat to sink. A video of the incident shows large waves and 60 mile-per-hour winds battering the duck boat as it struggled against the storm in a vain attempt to make it ashore.
SOURCE: STEVE VOCKRODT
Kansas City Star